A Call To Holiness

1 John 5:16-17

16 If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. 17 All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.
This is one of those passages that has caused a lot of discussion over the years. I have read many articles, commentaries, blogs and books to help get a grip on what John is talking about here. What does he mean when he describes a sin that is unto death? Some will teach that this is that unforgivable sin that Jesus mentions in Mark 3:28-30 (in context though this is speaking of witnessing Christ’s miracles during his earthly ministry and attribution it to satan.) Some have said this is talking about suicide since it is a sin you cannot repent of before you die, but that again is not biblical since Christ forgives all of our sin (past, present, and future) when we call out to him for salvation and we are therefore under no condemnation as a child of God! That doesn’t mean we will not give an account for our actions before Christ at the Bema Seat (the judgement seat of Christ) but that judgment is not about entrance into heaven, it is about rewards for a life of faithfulness (2 Corinthians 5:10).
There are two views that do line up with the teaching of scripture. One is the view that this is talking of salvation. Once a person has died without Christ there is not reason to continue to pray for them to be saved since their eternity has been determined already. There are false religions that teach that we can pray for those who have died and are in hell so that God may change His mind and bring them to heaven. Some scholars say that the Jews had a practice of praying for the dead dating back to the 2nd century before Christ. But Luke 16 give us an illustration of the permanence of our state once we pass from this life. When we take our final breath, our eternity is sealed – whether its is in heaven through faith in Christ or in hell because of our rejection of His salvation. No amount of prayers can change this.
The second view that we can see in scripture is that there are some sins that carries the consequence of death, either immediate or in the near future. Lot’s wife, the mumbling children of Israel, Ananias and Sapphira. Each of these sinned against God and paid the immediate consequence of death. So what sin is it that could cause God to end our lives? Some are sins that carry the death penalty, like murder. There are some who have contracted deadly viruses as a result of a sinful lifestyle. Other than that the most biblical answer that I can think if is, I don’t know! Too many times we want to have that list of sins so we know how close we can get to the edge without falling off! I don’t think it is about a list of what not to do, but a realization that God takes sin seriously and there are times that our sin carries extreme consequences in this life.
So which one is John talking about? Based on all of my study my conclusion is…I am not sure. It could be either, it could be both. Here is the question that I want to pose to you today. Is this more a passage about identifying a particular sin, or a call to be sure of our salvation and to live a life of holiness? The Christian life is not about seeing how close to the fire we can get without being burned, it is a life that hates even the garment spotted by the flesh (Jude 1:23). We need to quit focusing on “good enough” Christianity and start striving to please God with everything we do! Psalm 19:14 – Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, My Strength and My Redeemer!
Today as we ReFocus our hearts and minds on Christ let us strive for holiness! Pray for those who are in the grips of sin that they may see the power of God to break those chains. As Jude said in verses 22-23,”And of some have compassion, making a difference: and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.”


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